An Update on “Protest Benches” at 14th and Oak Streets, NW

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You can see the original post and more photos of the benches here. The person behind the benches sends an email of explanation:

“Dear PoP,
I see you posted some photos on your blog about an art project I recently installed at 14th, Oak and Ogden Streets. Contrary to your commentary “I’ve always known there were benches here but I never noticed the writing on them before,” benches have not been a part of the park for the past 2.5-3 years but had been a part of the park for decades before that. I installed these benches early August.

Thank you,
Sarah Tooley

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For the installation Public Dialogues in Public Places, former neighborhood resident and artist Sarah Tooley interviewed 60 community members who live near or own a small business adjacent to the park at the intersections of 14th, Oak and Ogden Streets in Northwest, Washington, DC. She asked about their feelings and thoughts on their relationship to the park and community safety.

With the help of a Small Projects Grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities she worked with a group of volunteers to paint and transcribe selected texts from the interviews onto the slats of seven brightly painted wooden benches. She met with the D.C Department of Parks and Recreation to create a Donation Agreement to allow for the public installation of the benches until renovation of the park begins.

Through the physical manifestation of the text painted on the benches privately expressed opinions are launches into the public realm. The differing views and experiences expressed lay side by side to confront and co-exists with the assumptions, stereotypes and lived realities of the people who choose to spend time in the park, who steer clear of it, or those who have felt pushed out.”

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